US to send weapons to Israel amid invasion threat in Gaza’s Rafah: Report

Planned delivery of bombs and other munitions comes as President Biden pushes for truce in Israel’s war on Gaza.

Smoke billows over Khan Younis following an Israeli bombardment in the southern Gaza Strip, on February 15, 2024 [Said Khatib/AFP]Published On 17 Feb 202417 Feb 2024

The United States is preparing to send more bombs and other weapons to Israel even as it pushes for a ceasefire in the war on Gaza and has said it opposes Tel Aviv’s plans for a ground invasion in southern Rafah where more than half the enclave’s displaced population is trapped.

The proposed arms delivery includes about a thousand each of MK-82 500-pound (227kg) bombs and KMU-572 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs) that turn unguided munitions into precision-guided bombs, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, citing unnamed US officials.

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The US is further considering sending FMU-139 bomb fuses, with the total shipment estimated to be worth tens of millions of dollars, which will be paid from US military aid to Israel.

The report cited an assessment of the proposed arms transfer drafted by the US embassy in Jerusalem as saying the Israeli government has requested “rapid acquisition of these items for the defence of Israel against continued and emerging regional threats”.

The assessment also dismisses potential human rights concerns, saying “Israel takes effective action to prevent gross violations of human rights and to hold security forces responsible that violate those rights”.

The administration of US President Joe Biden has so far twice bypassed Congress to urgently send bombs and other munitions to Israel amid the war that has killed more than 28,000 Palestinians, mostly children and women, and left tens of thousands more injured or missing.

According to the WSJ, the US has provided roughly 21,000 precision-guided munitions to Israel since the start of the war last October. It said the remaining weapons are enough to sustain 19 weeks of bombing Gaza, but that would shrink to days if Israel also launches a full assault on Lebanon, where it has been engaged in border fighting with Hezbollah.

On Friday, Biden said he has repeatedly told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu there “has to be a temporary ceasefire” in Gaza during “extensive” conversations this week.

In the face of widespread international condemnation, Israel has insisted it will soon launch a ground invasion of Rafah, the southernmost city in the Gaza Strip that borders Egypt. It is where an estimated 1.4 million of the enclave’s 2.3 million population has been forcibly displaced in Israeli attacks across Gaza in the four-month conflict.

While the Biden administration maintains that an Israeli incursion into the densely packed city would be a “disaster”, it has said that such an operation would not result in tangible consequences, such as a freeze in US weapons transfers.

Biden said he cautioned Netanyahu against moving forward with a military operation into Rafah without a “credible and executable plan” to protect Palestinians sheltering there.

“I anticipate, I’m hoping, that the Israelis will not make any massive land invasion [of Rafah] in the meantime. So, my expectation, that’s not gonna happen,” Biden said.

Washington, some of Israel’s other allies, in addition to the United Nations and a slew of rights groups, have said an assault on Rafah given the dire humanitarian situation suffered by Palestinians in Gaza would prove catastrophic.

Netanyahu has ordered the military to draw up plans that would evacuate civilians, but top UN officials have said there is no feasible way of moving people from the area and that there is no safe place left in Gaza.

Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant said the country is “thoroughly planning” its ground invasion of Rafah, and Netanyahu promised early on Friday to reject “international dictates” on a long-term resolution of Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies